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Colts tweak coaching staff, look for big season

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Colts will test next season whether adding an ex-head coach can raise the postseason bar.

The addition of former Cleveland Browns coach Rob Chudzinski to the Colts coaching staff has left many wondering exactly what he's going to do. He'll be a "special assistant to the head coach," which is vague enough to encompass everything.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano explained, if not precisely, what Chudzinski will do when Pagano met with the media on Friday at the NFL Combine.

"He'll be heavily involved with a lot of things that I do on a daily basis and be a great resource for me," Pagano said. "He's going to be a great resource for our entire coaching staff, not only our offensive staff, our defensive staff, special teams, game-day management. He's a brilliant guy. A really bright guy. A really smart guy. A really good football coach and he's well versed in a lot of different areas."

That's quite the buildup, but Pagano has always been an energetic, positive type of coach.

"(That) kind of ends all of the speculation of what he's going to be doing," Pagano said. "Why is he here? We had an opportunity to add another piece to the puzzle which makes our team better, gets us one step closer to our ultimate goal, and that's hoisting a Lombardi (Trophy)."

Chudzinski was fired by the Browns after last season as the team essentially cleaned house. His relationship with Pagano dates back to when Pagano was a graduate assistant for Jimmy Johnson at the University of Miami and Chudzinski was a player.

The decision to include Chudzinski in all phases of the operation essentially removes the possibility that he could be seen as an intrusion on offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, since Chudzinski has an offensive background.

"He's a great football mind to bounce things off of," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "He's going to do evaluations. He's going to help in all three phases. Special teams, defense, offense, player evaluation, game day, all those types of things to help our head coach and help our team and help us get better. I think it's a great pick up."

Pagano and Grigson touched on a number of subjects when they met with the media Friday.

Among them:

--Not spending too much in free agency, despite the fact the Colts have the second-highest salary cap room in the league:

"It's not hard to tighten your belt when you're looking at what we're looking at in '15 and '16," Grigson said. "In future years, we have some key, key young talent -- not to even give you names; you know who they are -- that we're going to have to re-sign. So we have to be very prudent and fiscally sound in how we move forward."

--Reggie Wayne's rehabilitation from knee surgery:

"He actually just went back (to Miami)," Pagano said. "You can thank the snow gods for that. We had him a lot longer up here than we thought we would. He was grinding. Like I said, he put more time in there than our trainers did. He beat everybody into the building, but he finally had enough and needed to get back. You know, his family's down there, his kid's down there. So he's going to go back there for a couple weeks. But he won't let up on the rehab, I know that."

--The importance of having a franchise quarterback:

"All you have to do is look at the playoffs," Grigson said. "Quarterback play is a huge, huge part of winning playoff games. We're very fortunate and blessed to have Andrew Luck and what he brings to the table. Because great quarterbacks don't come along all that often and if you don't have one, you're going to have to bolster every other facet of your team to be able to get on the level of a team that has a great one."

--Running back Trent Richardson's performance:

"I think there's room for improvement, like I can say for anyone," Grigson said. "But there are areas in Trent's game where he did show up and help us in key situations. There's obviously the big magnifying glass on him every week. But we see positives. We watch the tape and we evaluate and look under every nook and cranny and how a guy is progressing. We feel he's going in the right direction. He had the shoulder (surgery) and he's going to be fine."

--On Year 3 being a big one for Pagano, Grigson and the Colts:

"They're all big," Pagano said. "We want to take another step in the right direction. We know the expectations are going to be high. That's where we want them. That's the conversation we want to be in. We made it to the final eight. The season didn't finish the way we wanted it to finish, but we've got a lot pieces in place now.

"Continuity's important, but we know there is going to be change. Hopefully, there's less than there was last year. Ryan will do a great job with that, and we'll add a few pieces to the puzzle, just like we added Chud as far as the coaching staff goes. We'll look to get better in every single area of our program.

(c)2014 The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Ind.)

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